Deck Nine, developer of Life Is Strange: Before the Storm have announced that the bonus episode ‘Farewell’ will be released on March 5th. Farewell reintroduces the first games protagonist Max to Arcadia Bay and tells the story of hers and Chloe’s relationship before Max had to leave.
Set before the events of Before The Storm, Farewell sees Ashly Burch resume the voice role of Chloe Price for the first time since the original Life Is Strange, as Rhianna DeVries voiced the character in Before the Storm’s three main episodes. Hannah Telle, who played Max in the original series, also returns.
A collectors edition of the game is also available to pre-order and includes a vinyl of the game soundtrack and exclusive figurines of Chloe and Rachel. More details can be found on the Square Enix Store.
After a short wait it’s time for the final episode of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, and in my opinion this series still has more to do before it reaches the emotional highs of the original game. Does the finale of Before The Storm go out with thunder and lightning, or is it just a bit of light drizzle?
Before you continue, it’s best to read my reviews of both Part 1: Awake and Part 2: Brave New World as these cover the gameplay mechanics that you will find in Hell Is Empty, as well as giving you my opinion on the series so far. If you choose not to read them (Why Not!?) then you need to know that I think that there is too much focus on the character development for my liking. I was missing the raw emotional set-pieces that the original delivered.
Hell Is Empty kicks off right where Brave New World left us, teetering on the edge of an almighty cliff after some shocking news for Rachel. I criticized the previous episodes for spending too much time on character development, but Hell Is Empty definitely doesn’t make that same mistake. Finally, for the first time since the opening of Awake, both Chloe and Rachel are placed in danger, a situation that has been hinted at, with the return of the very much underused bad-guy. This is ramped up mid-way through the episode as one of them has to continue alone in order to resolve their big problem. These scenes are punctuated with moments of humour, especially in a hospital visit to a patient hurt in Brave New World.
The backtalk mechanic is seen much less in this episode, but is replaced with a section of gameplay that’s strangely very reminiscent of LA Noire, as Chloe has to do some investigative work in the DA’s office. This section also includes an encounter that is as creepy and as dangerous as anything else seen in the series so far, especially as it comes from an unlikely source.
In my opinion the whole series deals with grief, as Chloe’s whole story arc up to this point is about her struggling to cope following the loss of her father, but Hell Is Empty finally brings her out of this as she realises that her friends and family are also suffering from their own types of grief. It also does a tremendous job in making us question whether a lie told to protect others from that grief is morally right. In the end Chloe has to make a big decision, similar to those in the original game, which seemed to take an age for me to think about! Although here I found the decision to be an easy choice, I am sure others will spend a lot longer on the moral ambiguity!
Hell is Empty does a good job ending on a pretty positive note, but this does feel slightly convenient in certain cases, as Chloe’s relationship with her mum and David is so fraught throughout the first two episodes. And although it improves in part three it is far from resolved, but the ending montage hints otherwise, which doesn’t quite sit right. The first two episodes also featured the raging forest fire which gave a sense of impending doom to the proceedings, but this is dismissed with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it single line of dialogue along the lines of “oh yeah, the fires out” which felt like a huge narrative mistake. But there is a post credit sequence calling back to the impending event from the original game, and is a emotional punch to the gut after that somewhat uplifting ending.
Overall, Hell Is Empty is the outstanding highlight of the series, bringing emotion, fear, sadness and joy all in a two hour gaming session. Still not quite to the standard of its predecessor, but I think we all agree that would have unlikely anyway. Fans of the original will come away feeling very satisfied.
Thanks to Xbox and Dontnod Entertainment for supporting TiX
The second and penultimate episode of the prequel to the highly loved Life Is Strange is here. Will Episode 2, subtitled Brave New World, improve on Episode 1- Awake, or will it suffer from Act 2’s slightly mundane middle section. Before you read on, please read my review of Awake for details of the gameplay mechanics, story beats and of course my final verdict.
The story picks off from the end of Awake, with ramifications for both Chloe and Rachel on their return to school. Like Awake the story continues to focus on the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, introducing Rachel’s parents early on, and then more extended scenes with Frank and Awake’s opening scene bad guy. Gameplay-wise not much has changed, with moments of Backtalk being available in order to progress past certain scenes, the one with Skip being particularly entertaining as you try to gain access into the school dormitories.
If anything the story suffers from having to further explore the relationship between Chloe and Rachel, as this takes up the bulk of the episode, as it did in Awake. This doesn’t leave an awful amount of time to explore Chloe’s relationship with her mum, or for her to deal with the new family dynamics she finds herself in. It really puts all its eggs in one basket, developing the relationship between the two friends, which mirrors Chloe’s actions, as she too is apathetic towards anything in her life except her new best friend. In the moments of alone time with just Chloe it’s a bit dull, especially a junkyard search for items that will spruce up the inside of an abandoned van.
When the episode does kick into life it’s reminiscent of its predecessor, but there are only a couple of moments where there are serious decisions to make. But when these arrive they really do require some soul-searching in order to make the correct choice. It’s hard to remain spoiler free, but just how do you make the right decision when both outcomes will have grave ramifications for school friends.
Chloe does show a softer, more caring side in this episode if you choose those decision paths, and the final moments with Rachel’s parents put her into a family environment which you know she is part craving and part despising. The final cliffhanger is somewhat of a soap opera moment which you are not expecting, and despite all my pondering, one I can’t quite understand, but it is intriguing to see where it will lead.
A big change which I didn’t encounter in Awake was that a decision made right in the opening scene will change a gameplay scene later on within the performance of The Tempest play. I don’t recall such a decision in Awake that altered gameplay to this extent, but maybe I just missed it. In fact, many decisions in Brave New World feel like there will be consequences in the final episode and I will be going back to replay certain moments just to see if and how the story changes.
But, the one thing that Life Is Strange always nails is the look and feel of Arcadia Bay. Some of the scenes are filmed in such a cinematic way that you feel like they have just popped out of a movie. The screenshot below is a perfect example of one of these shots, with the two best friends captured plotting their next move framed by streetlights and falling ash from the forest fires. The music is also spot on as always and each track has been added to my Life Is Strange playlist!
Overall, “Brave New World” is on a par with the previous episode, despite feeling shorter and less dramatic. The forest fire that starts in Awake is still raging and although only referenced in passing it still creates a feeling of impending doom. Due to the events of Life Is Strange you know that Chloe’s and Rachel’s relationship and future plans are not going to have a happy ending, therefore the action taking place in Before The Storm are like the fire, with the inevitable doom on the way.
Before The Storm is the latest game in the universe of Arcadia Bay and has been developed by Deck Nine and published by Square Enix. The developers of the original games Dontnod Entertainment are currently working on another Life Is Strange game, this one being a true sequel, Life Is Strange 2.
Before The Storm has extremely huge shoes to fill. The sequel (and prequel) to the award winning Life Is Strange takes place prior to the events of the first game, and focuses on the character of Chloe Price. Was Life Is Strange lightning in a bottle? And therefore will this follow up tarnish my memories of a very moving and emotional first game.
Well, no need to worry. Whilst Before The Storm may not quite be up to the standard of its predecessor, it is still a Life Is Strange experience to satisfy the most cynical fans out there. But let’s back up. I loved the original game. I didn’t play it on its original release, but I played all episodes back to back, in a Netflix style once all episodes had been released. As I review Before The Storm I will be playing episode by episode, so I will need to see if that has an effect on my enjoyment of the series.
Episode 1: Awake is to tell the story of Chloe Price and Rachel Amber. Chloe was one of the main characters in Life Is Strange and it’s not a spoiler to know that her father died in a car accident and she is clearly affected by this in both games. The story starts strong, with Chloe attempting to gain access to an illegal club/concert and contains a scene where her life is put in danger. She is saved by Rachel Amber, who’s name you will know from Life Is Strange, so it gives you a great idea of where the story of the series will lead. Various characters from the first game are introduced, and again, knowing them from the first game you get a good idea of their character arc in this series.
Gameplay wise there are no surprises. There is the addition of a new method called Backtalk that is used in order to win arguments. Backtalk is achieved by making correct dialogue choices, and it is first used in order to get past a bouncer at the aforementioned club. However, in order to win you needed to investigate your surroundings first as there was a very useful piece of information that was key to your success. These discoveries are flagged to you so you know this information has been found and is ready to be used in a conversation. The developers have chosen not to introduce QTE’s or anything similar, instead sticking to the tried and tested method of having the story within the game be the most memorable feature.
After the strong opening scene, the middle section explores Chloe’s current unhappiness with her home and school life, and then to set up the relationship between Chloe and Rachel. To be really honest this section is too long and doesn’t take advantage on the perilous events from the opening scene which I am sure will be revisited in future episodes. But for me it was a missed opportunity. It went quickly from danger and peril to 100% character development which at times felt slightly mundane. However, contained within this middle act was one of my favourite scenes in the game, which was an amazing Dungeons and Dragons-esque game which Chloe plays with school friends, and it is utterly hilarious.
If you played Life Is Strange you will remember that achievements were earned by taking photographs of certain features in your surroundings that needed to be hunted out, making it a worthwhile to hunt out and investigate all items in Arcadia Bay. In Before The Storm this has been replaced with Graffiti. It kind of makes sense. Max was appreciative of the world that surrounded her, whilst Chloe has more of a destructive demeanor. Your journal points you to these opportunities, much as the first game.
My biggest issue with this first episode of Before The Storm is of the main character. At the start (and in the first game) I found it very hard to like Chloe. She comes across as arrogant, aggressive and just plain nasty. However, as you progress you have dream sequences of encounters with her father and you soon come to realise that her behaviour is a coping mechanism used to avoid creating emotional bonds with others. Chloe has still not come to terms with the death of her father and is quite clearly suffering from depression, but chooses to be an outcast to prevent further pain. Although I then understood her reasons for her behaviour, However I did struggle in the scenes with her mother, where the dialogue choices were just too aggressive for my liking. I struggled to understand how she could talk to her own mum that way but that might be more to do with the fact that I have both a strong relationship with my own parents, and with my children, and I clearly haven’t been through the emotional turmoil that Chloe has.
But, when it comes to the final act Before the Storm moves away from the mundane and ramps the emotional impact up to 11. There were three moments of gut-punching moments that had me as close to tears as I can be. A scene in a junkyard was the clincher for me and made me see what the build up was for. That was what I was waiting for all game. And it delivered. There was no cliff-hanger ending but it set itself up quite nicely for the next chapter.
And, like its predecessor, the soundtrack of Before the Storm is as moving and as melancholic as I had hoped. There were times when cut scenes could be skipped and moved on but there was more enjoyment to be had to let them play, and enjoy the music and the moment you were witnessing.
I will now have to suffer in the wait until episode two, and eagerly look forward to seeing how the relationship between Chloe and Rachel progresses. Hopefully there will be less character build up and more of the emotional turmoil.
As someone who connects with music – game and film soundtracks in particular – the latest video from Daughter and Life is Strange: Before the Storm gives me positive vibrations for the upcoming game release. This video follows on from the news that Adrian reported yesterday, which provides another sample of the incredible work that Daughter, the British indie folk trio, are creating for Before the Storm. You can pre-order the soundtrack over hereif you so wish!
You’ll be able to play Episode 1 of Life is Strange: Before the Storm, entitled ‘Awake’, on August 31st. In the mean time, why not listen to the first song from their Before the Storm album on Spotify – which has just launched on the Xbox One and Xbox One S.
Square Exix have announce that Life Is Strange: Before The Storm will feature music by British indie-folk band Daughter. The original music score entitled “Music From Before The Storm” will be released via Glassnote Records/4AD on September 1st 2017. The game features all the tracks on Music from Before the Storm as well as additional licensed tracks including two classic tracks from Daughters back catalogue.
“Life is Strange is a game that evokes a lot of emotion in people and, alongside great storytelling and characterisation, it’s music that plays a huge role in this”, said Jon Brooke Vice President for Brand Marketing, Square Enix London Studios. “It was really important for us to find a great collaboration for original music alongside our licensed tracks to capture the raw emotion of our game and Daughter fit that bill perfectly. Once we’d heard all the tracks for the game we really wanted the album to have a full release so our fans could enjoy them over and over. We’re really thankful and excited to be on the brink of a Life is Strange Daughter album release, we hope everyone enjoys the tracks as much as we expect.”
“We are so proud to have written the soundtrack for “Life Is Strange: Before the Storm”, said Elena Tonra, Daughter Lead Singer. “It was our first experience working on an original soundtrack, and are so honoured to have been given the opportunity to work with the team. We loved the story on first read as it centres around realistic female lead characters who are emotional, intelligent, sensitive and badass in equal measure. I think the characters themselves have really inspired the soundscapes we have created. It was a pleasure to be involved.”
“We wanted to have fun with this project so we made something we felt could be a soundtrack for the characters in the game themselves”, said Igor Haefeli, founding band member. It was also important for us to make sure this collection of songs and pieces of music stood on their own so we really went that extra mile. We hope players and non-players alike will equally enjoy it.”
The Tracklist is as follows;
2. Burn It Down
5. The Right Way Around
8. All I Wanted
9. I Can’t Live Here Anymore
10. Dreams Of William
13. A Hole In The Earth
Since 2010, the London-based trio of Elena Tonra, Igor Haefeli and Remi Aguilella, otherwise known as Daughter, has gained a loyal fanbase, playing to sold-out venues around the world. Their first album, the silver-selling If You Leave was released in 2013 and debuted in the Top 20 of the UK album chart. Their award-winning and critically-acclaimed second album Not To Disappear followed in 2016 and was celebrated by the likes of NPR, The Observer, Stereogum, Nylon, Billboard, and many more. Daughter will be heading back on the road later this year, with the trio opening for The National on their North American tour in October, followed by a South American headline tour in November. For further details head to www.ohdaughter.com.
About LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM
LIFE IS STRANGE: BEFORE THE STORM is set in Arcadia Bay, three years before the events of the first game in the series. Players will take on the role of a rebellious 16 year-old Chloe Price who forms an unlikely friendship with Rachel Amber; a beautiful and popular girl destined for success. When Rachel’s world is turned upside down by a family secret, it takes this new-found alliance to give each other the strength to overcome their demons.
The prequel to the amazing Life Is Strange, subtitled Before The Storm is released at the end of this month (Wooooohoooooooo!) and the developers have just released a new 10 minute video.
Returning to a familiar setting in Arcadia Bay, this brand new gameplay shows a 16 year-old Chloe Price who is still struggling with her father’s death and trying to deal with the unwelcomed entry of a new father figure, David, into her life. After a blurred awaking following events in the Mill the night before, this scene – which is cut together from a much longer sequence in game – unveils Chloe’s house for the first time in Before the Storm and provides fans a glimpse at Chloe and David’s turbulent relationship.
The first of three episodes of Life is Strange: Before the Storm is entitled ‘Awake’ and will release on 31st August 2017 for Xbox One and other platforms.
One of the games I personally am looking forward to the most is the prequel to Life Is Strange, which is subtitled Before The Storm. The developers have released a new video showing a behind the scenes look at how the writers and voice actors are approaching the characters of Chloe and Rachel.
Developer Deck Nine Games stated “We are extremely happy to have been able to involve Ashly Burch in the creation of Before the Storm as a writing consultant – she has truly helped mould the younger Chloe Price into the character you will play. This new video provides some key insights from Ashly and our lead writer Zak Gariss, on what it has been like to create a brand new story at a time where our lead character is facing such rawness of hurt, in so many facets of her life.”
The video also includes insights from Rhianna Devries, the voice actor playing the younger Chloe in Before the Storm. Rhianna has been working with Season One’s returning voice over director, to ensure the level of performance and emotion is on par with the original game.
The first of three episodes of Life is Strange: Before the Storm is entitled ‘Awake’ and will release on 31st August 2017.